Star Trek: Discovery – Season 5 Episode 10

May 30, 2024 | Posted by in TV

“Life Itself”

Star Trek: Discovery ends its five-season run with the end of the season-long quest to find the Progenitor Technology and a conclusion for the show.

Discovery stands out among Star Trek shows in that it had a single main character whereas the others were ensemble-driven or focused on a small collection of characters. For better or worse, Discovery pivoted around Michael Burnham with everything funneled through her perspective. Other characters were developed and had their own arcs, but Burnham was always unquestionably the main character. Mileage will vary on whether the approach worked but the show was always consistent in its commitment to that premise and ended on its own terms keeping Burnham in the centre.


Not in Kansas any more

Another stylistic identifier was emotionally driven storytelling. Most important was how situations and development made the characters feel and how those feelings informed their actions. This too was a controversial choice but doubtlessly a deliberate one that made the show stand out in the franchise. Discovery was always a highly sentimental show and crossed its finishing line by fully leaning into that fact. It’s unapologetic and playing to an audience that will appreciate Discovery for what it is.

Before wrapping up the show as a whole, there is the matter of the Progenitor Technology to resolve. Previous reviews have noted the frustration created by the overlong quest to assemble the clues that would lead them to the technology. Spending nine episodes on the way to the story left very little time to actually explore it and that shows in this episode rapidly burning thought plot to reach the conclusion. The early scenes focus on Burnham and Moll orienting themselves in the strange place they find themselves. A collection of windows allowing passage to a variety of different environments is theorised by Burnham to be either a laboratory to test lifeforms in different surroundings or gateways to other worlds. Either way the scale is overwhelming and it’s clear that Burnham doesn’t understand what she is presented with.

Burnham and Moll agree to a tenuous truce so that they can find a way out without being at each other’s throats. They agree to this after an extended fight sequence; after which they both realise that fighting is unproductive in the current circumstances. Burnham gets Moll on side by personally promising to do everything she can to bring L’ak back. This promise has weight as it comes from Burnham rather than on behalf of the Federation so she offers Moll something profound that encourages her to cooperate. This truce ends exactly when it should as it’s consistent with Moll’s characterisation to latch onto any opportunity that helps her achieve her goal and change lanes when she feels she needs to. Once they find the interface and Burnham discloses the clue she was told she ceases to be useful to Moll and she knocks Burnham out to remove the obstacle standing between her and what she wants. It’s a strong and believable adversarial relationship that makes great use of two well-written and performed characters.


Set a course for the convenient explosive

Moll fails to fully consider the clue and puts the pieces together incorrectly which triggers a security protocol. She was too hasty due to her desire to bring L’ak back and was punished for her impatience. It’s a plausible mistake because it comes from a believable previously established emotional place. It also supports the notion of being worthy to gain access to the technology after completing the previous trials leading to this point. Moll didn’t experience those so hasn’t learned what she needs to know to complete the final puzzle. Combine this with her grief-driven impatience and it makes sense that she would fail to take the time to consider the puzzle.

This is a great idea in theory. The notion of learning a series of lessons to prove oneself worthy of wielding the most powerful technology ever created is a strong one but the execution was lacking. Each of the lessons were obvious surface-level maxims like the importance of respecting other cultures and making an effort to understand lifeforms different to your own. Nothing was learned that isn’t innate to Federation and Starfleet values so they at best act as a reaffirmation of what the characters are already living. It does work when you consider these ideals aren’t shared by everyone. Moll and the Breen were interested in the technology for their own reasons so wouldn’t respect its power enough to use it responsibly.

The point of the quest is to prove that whoever solves it lives the values necessary to truly understand the power they control but the problem is that the puzzles were easy to solve without living those values. For example; if Moll were to enter the Mindscape in the eighth episode then it’s reasonable to assume she could have stumbled onto the solution being emotional honesty to the degree of recognising one’s weaknesses and opened up about her feelings for L’ak and not knowing how she can continue without him along with whatever other anxieties she could admit to. Similarly, her intelligence could easily have allowed her to solve the other clues and reach this point without truly proving herself. For the worthiness point to land properly the clues needed to be stronger and impossible to solve without internalising the required lesson.


Aggressive negotiations

The Progenitor (Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama) does qualify this to some degree by pointing out that important things are often simple as if the key is not to overcomplicate what the technology represents. Simple morality is enough to be worthy of it and being patient enough to consider something beyond the obvious is all that is required to gain access to the interface. The simplicity is beautiful in its own way but it’s the end of a journey that wasn’t strongly depicted which robs the sentiment of some of its power.

Despite confining the exploration of the technology to a single episode, it manages to not be rushed or contrived. It was always possible that the core lesson would be that the power is too great to be wielded by anyone so Burnham reaching that conclusion isn’t a surprise. Janaal’s words about it being found in a time of peace by those who would appreciate it appear to be ringing in her ears as she talks about the battle being waged outside against those who would abuse the power in a campaign of destruction. The Breen definitely can’t be trusted with it but Burnham also wonders if she can be trusted and ultimately concludes that it’s too much responsibility for her alone.

Added to that is the self-doubt she struggles with. She admits this to the Progenitor as a counter to the assertion that Burnham has earned the right to use the technology The Progenitor insists that she’s a worthy steward because she has passed every test but Burnham doesn’t agree and opts to return to Discovery to carry out her decision. Burnham effectively turns down Godhood because she doesn’t believe she should be in that position.


Aggressive negotiations

Her conversation with the Progenitor is an interesting one as it covers a variety of philosophical touchstones outside of the notion of worthiness and the offer of Godhood. Much of this comes through the Progenitor’s summary of the diversity of purpose. They point out that everyone is looking for it and people find it in different ways which may be an obvious statement but it’s true for every character in this show. In many ways it’s a cheat as it aids in the rapid wrapping up of the major character arcs presented this season but there’s power in noting it as a universal truth that hasn’t changed in the billions of years between the Progenitors and the show’s present. The Progenitor talks about being a lonely species in an empty universe who found purpose through embracing difference and using the technology to create the diversity they had come to appreciate. They seeded life across the universe out of a desire to live in an infinitely diverse densely populated universe but time defeated them before they could witness the fruits of their efforts.

This fact helps Burnham arrive at her decision to let go of the technology. She arrives at this decision after witnessing over 4 billion years of history in the span of a few seconds which allows her to gain an understanding of the complexity of events that played out to bring her to that moment. In effect she sees her place in the universe and it may aid in her search for personal purpose as she sees concrete evidence of the role she has played. Her conclusion is that the Progenitors achieved what they set out to do. The universe is filled with infinite diversity in infinite combinations so there is no need for the technology to be used. According to Burnham, it offers nothing that doesn’t already exist so letting it go is an easy decision. Stamets briefly protests as he sees it as the most important scientific discovery of their lifetime and insists that it should be studied rather than abandoned but he is quickly convinced otherwise.

There is brief mention of his desire for legacy which technically addresses this arc that was occasionally mentioned throughout the season but provides nothing in the way of meaningful coverage save for the subsequent conversation with Adira where they posit that the learned a lot on an amazing mission and maybe that’s enough. Whether this rings true for Stamets and he makes peace with his place in history is left ambiguous which may be for the best considering how poorly this arc was explored over the season. His scene with Adira is the final meaningful significant moment featuring either of those characters with the remainder of their screen time being background players. It’s an underwhelming conclusion for them though the work done with these characters over the season was far from strong.


Destination reached

One thing that is never addressed is Burnham’s tricorder data. There’s enough there for Stamets to get excited about so that suggests that what she obtained can be studied. There have been examples in the franchise of scans providing enough information to develop technology such as the aliens in the first episode of Strange New Worlds so it’s possible that something horrible could be created based on the data that Burnham brought back with her. It could have been used to highlight how dangerous the technology can be and enhance the argument for letting it go.

Despite this, Burnham’s decision to let go of the technology is well justified and the best possible resolution to this story, especially in the time allowed in this episode. If the franchise is to endure then it would be very difficult to integrate having access to this technology into future storytelling without giving the Federation Godlike powers. The use of the technology itself would never be interesting so it’s far better to explore what it represents and deal with the question of whether it’s possible to be used responsibly. Burnham certainly doesn’t feel confident enough to wield that power with all of her self-doubts even though the Progenitor insists that knowing oneself, striving to be better, desiring to overcome weakness and having pure intentions is the key to being worthy of that responsibility. Burnham doesn’t agree and makes what she considers to be the right choice.

One of the more interesting facts about the technology is that the Progenitors didn’t create it. They found it and had to make choices about how to use it just as Burnham does. This both preserves and add to the mystery surrounding the technology as it predates the species that used it to seed life throughout the galaxy. It’s unknown who created it and what happened to them and it’s also unanswered how the Progenitors found it and learned how to use it. Were there instructions that they used or was it a lot of trial and error? Leaving these questions unanswered is a good thing as it preserves the mystery that was presented at the beginning of the season.

pic6It has been known since The Next Generation episode “The Chase” that the Progenitors seeded life throughout the galaxy which offers a, perhaps unnecessary, explanation as to why most of the aliens in Star Trek are humanoid with variable facial structures. It was something that was simply an accepted conceit of the franchise that didn’t need explaining but that knowledge also didn’t change anything as it didn’t create any lasting impact in the franchise afterwards. Ultimately, Burnham learns nothing that she didn’t know already which arguably makes the quest a waste of time on a mechanical plot level but it’s very meaningful from a character point of view as it helped Burnham resolve some anxieties that she was struggling with.

There is an element of faith in Burnham’s decision as she believes that whoever created the technology can do so again should they still exist. There may come a time where the ability to create life will be needed again but in a diverse and thriving universe it isn’t required.

Another thing the preservation and extension of the mystery accomplishes is furthering the sense of wonder associated with the technology. There was a mysterious race of people who created technology that could create life and they predate the race of people who were believed to be the creators of that technology. Essentially, the Gods that they were seeking also have Gods. It’s a reminder that the universe is filled with infinite mystery and complexity that can never truly be understood. This is one of the fundamental notions that Star Trek has always championed and the question of what came before the Progenitors adds to the excitement of the quest for knowledge. Answers will always be sought and it’s impossible for every question to be answered which makes the pursuit of knowledge an infinite quest that will always be satisfying as there will never come a time where there is nothing more to be learned.


She chose…poorly

This is a conclusion Culber reaches on a personal level. One of the strongest character arcs this season has been his spiritual awakening and it’s one that comes to a satisfying conclusion before its end. He joins book on his mission to stabilise the portal and is able to draw on remnants of Janaal’s memories to help achieve that but he also comes to a profound personal revelation when faced with the portal. It isn’t quite looking on the face of God but it’s close enough to give him what he needs. He concludes that there are no answers and that its ok for there to be some mystery. It was previously established that his mind has been opened to having faith as his Abuela did. He has come to understand why her faith was so important to her and has been wrestling with his desire to embrace the idea that there is something beyond science that can’t be quantified.

When looking upon the portal he makes peace with the fact that he will never find concrete answers to the questions running through his mind because his newly found faith will provide him comfort in the absence of those answers. The show is saying that there are always going to be questions through extending the mystery of the technology the Progenitors used and Culber’s personal revelation compliments that idea by him accepting and celebrating that he will always be looking for answers. It’s a strong and powerful arc that is nicely resolved.

This episode finally provides a significant showcase of Rayner’s command abilities. He is still awaiting Burnham’s return but he has full agency in managing the situation outside of the portal. It’s chaotic and dangerous with the Breen relentlessly attacking with a large group of fighters. It’s standard fare in some ways with updates on declining shield percentages, sparks raining down on the bridge and shaking the camera to signify the impact of weapons but it’s fast paced and exciting with variety in the challenges.


She chose…wisely

Rayner proves how competent he is by adapting to every challenge calmly and drawing on his experience to give the relevant orders. A particularly impressive moment is when he opts to concentrate on the Breen fighters before focusing on the portal. It’s a practical decision based on the likelihood of surviving a continued onslaught from the fighters but it’s also a difficult decision as it means putting Burnham at greater risk. It’s mitigated by Book taking a shuttle but Rayner is making practical decisions that benefit the crew most of all.

This part of the episode somewhat completes Rayner’s journey towards being a fully-fledged part of the crew. In the previous episode, Tilly told him that Burnham trusts him to lead them and the crew do as well. This is proven by his orders being followed without hesitation no matter how controversial they may be. For example, his order to concentrate on the attacking Breen instead of the portal is followed without question because the crew trust his judgement. There has been very little development of this trust over the season other than a handful of moments with a small number of characters but in the context of the crisis situation playing out it really works and Rayner’s speech ending with him thanking the crew for the trust was earnest and believable.

Rayner’s decision to send the Breen to the Galactic Barrier is a display of mercy. They will be alive but their journey back will take decades so it accomplishes defeating them without killing them; something he could easily have done. Rayner’s backstory was detailed in an earlier episode so there’s weight to his making a merciful decision as his history points to him being deeply resentful of the Breen which opens up the possibility of him desiring vengeance. It was mentioned that Tahal was responsible for what happened to his people so perhaps some kind of direct confrontation would have enhanced this moment but it was more than good enough as is. He demonstrates fundamental Starfleet and Federation values by making a practical and professional decision that shows his ability to rise above his trauma in service of higher ideals. It’s powerful and earned even if the clunky reference to his family wasn’t required.


You are worthy

It’s unfortunate that Rayner would be added to the cast for a shortened final season as there wasn’t enough time to organically fold him into the cast and develop him extensively. He had a lot of potential as a character and would have benefited from having additional time to settle into the dynamic of the show. Callum Keith Rennie’s performance was always excellent but he wasn’t utilised nearly as well as he could have been.

Saru’s mission to negotiate with Primarch Tahal (Patricia Summersett) takes place and finally provides a tangible example of the internal conflict. Before this, only one Breen faction was depicted with their motivations lightly sketched. Tahal’s faction is similarly thinly defined but her presence shows that there is a power struggle and that the division can be exploited.

Rayner’s advice to show strength and give the Breen something they want continues to be relevant and informs Saru’s negotiation tactic. He doesn’t reach out to Tahal looking to find common ground, he is immediately aggressive because anything else would be seen as a sign of weakness.


Bye bye Breen

Saru preys on her desire for power by highlighting the influence he has in systems close to her bases and threatens to allow them to attack if she doesn’t change course. He cleverly offers to open a trade route to a particular sector to ascertain if she has assets in that area she wants to keep hidden and uses that information to press for her to back down. Doug Jones plays this interaction brilliantly; he deserves extra accolades for monologuing to a mostly empty room knowing that Tahal’s image will be added in post-production. It’s another example of Saru’s measured and intelligent approach to dealing with situations as well as his uncompromising nature coming into play when it needs to be. His speech about regarding Tahal as prey and sussing out her weakness is chilling and the interaction is a definite highlight of the season.

The conclusion of the Progenitor technology plot gives way to wrapping up some of the other dangling threads. In general, the episode -the latter part of it in particular- follows a checklist of items that remain unresolved and brings them to some sort of a close. One is the briefly featured Saru and T’Rina wedding which tells us little more than they got married. The ceremony and reception is more about touching on other character arcs than allowing Saru and T’Rina their moment of happiness. Granted there may be limited dramatic potential in showing the wedding but a joyful moment where characters celebrate their relationship is worthwhile by itself, particularly for a relationship that has received a great deal of attention.

One arc that is resolved is Tilly’s uncertainty about her teaching ability. She takes inspiration from Burnham and Rayner’s relationship and decides to implement a mentorship program at Starfleet Academy so that cadets can get proper guidance as they prepare to have officers. Till’s arc was poorly developed over the season so this conclusion doesn’t land and invites questions about Starfleet Academy’s current lack of a mentorship program when such a thing should be essential. It was recently reopened so it’s reasonable that there’s a development curve before it becomes what it once was but a mentorship program should be a staple of any educational institute. Tilly following Burnham and Rayner’s example while comparing it to her connection to Adira doesn’t really work as Burnham didn’t actively mentor Rayner who was already a Captain before becoming her first officer. All she did was help him understand how things work on her ship which isn’t strictly mentorship. Tilly also wasn’t really shown to be mentoring Adira. She offered them encouragement which also isn’t strictly mentorship so it’s a confusing resolution to an underwhelming arc.


Letting go

It isn’t an arc but another lingering question is answered; arguably one that nobody asked. The identity of the mysterious Kovich is revealed to be none other than Agent Daniels who made his debut in Star Trek: Enterprise. This is a confusing reveal as it represents a very deep cut into Star Trek lore. Enterprise is far from the most popular show in the franchise so Daniels won’t be a well-known character yet the reveal is treated with a level of import that borders on parody. There’s almost a pause to allow the audience to gasp and the reality is that a significant portion of the audience will pause in confusion. Putting that aside, the reveal adds nothing to Kovich as a character other than connecting him to an existing character who previously appeared. It tells us nothing about him that wasn’t already known and takes away some of the mystery associated with the character. Kovich was introduced as a mysterious and quirky man who somehow knows things and doesn’t need to be anything more than that. The writers of Discovery are obsessed with referencing Star Trek lore and rarely do so in an organic way. Most references are overt and clumsy such as this one.

Book and Moll’s connection sees a resolution of a kind. They have a conversation where Book suggests that there may come a time when she doesn’t hate the name Cleveland Booker and she admits it isn’t impossible. This solidifies how needless it was to create a pre-existing connection between these characters as it wasn’t meaningfully utilised and didn’t inform the relationship they actually had in any way. It is comforting that Moll’s skills will be put to use in some way by Kovich so she has an opportunity to find purpose in a different way but all her conversation with Book accomplishes is highlighting how little was done with their connection.

Another resolved arc is Burnham and Book’s fractured relationship. They sneak off for a private conversation with a scenic backdrop to confess their feelings for each other and agree to resume their relationship. It’s a good scene that takes full advantage of the electric chemistry between Sonequa Martin-Green and David Ajala. The reasons for their relationship breaking down may be contrived but any scene they share is engaging because of the performances and seeing them decide to be together is satisfying if delayed.


Did I tell you I was on Enterprise?

Far more satisfying is the flashforward depicting their relationship decades in the future. It endures and they are blissfully happy together. There’s clear warmth and comfort in their interactions and a strong indication that they both feel settled in the life they have built together. Truly the happiest possible ending for them. Another indication of the strength of their relationship is the arrival of their adult son, Leto (Sawandi Wilson) who is newly promoted to Captain and taking Burnham to embark on an important mission.

En route, Burnham and Leto have a conversation designed to summarise the themes and emotional truth of the season. This is framed as Burnham giving Leto advice about his first command. There is a notable key quote about the burden of command – “Those pips can bring pressure but they’re supposed to”. It’s a practical and realistic piece of advice that tells Leto the road ahead won’t be an easy one. He is taking responsibility for the lives of a crew of people and his decisions will often dictate whether they live or die. As a newly minted Captain, he’s likely to have some idea of the responsibility he’s about to assume as he has likely risen through the ranks which will include acting as a First Officer presumably taking command -or at least participating in- crisis situations. The advice is still meaningful as it comes from a place of experience and it’s a mother expressing a tender moment of honesty with her son.

Burnham has intermittently struggled with seeking a sense of purpose and has been seeking meaning throughout the season. Decades later, she seems to have found the answer and imparts that to Leto. She says “Life itself is meaning enough. How we choose to spend the time that we have, who we choose to spend it with”. Burnham has concluded that simply living life and appreciating those around you is all that’s required to find meaning. She found a family in Starfleet and on Discovery before finding Book and having a son. To her, that’s a big part of her purpose and what gives her life meaning. Her search for something more than that was futile but it’s also something she could only realise by going through the motions of that search. She tells Leto that his crew will become his family in time and he has to be open to letting that happen.


The newly-weds!

It’s certainly not the only school of thought on command but it’s very much Burnham’s experience and she wants her son to find her place in the way that she did. There isn’t enough time to explore whether he has a different outlook or if his experience of serving in Starfleet has been different but as a thematic conclusion, this works really well as it is filtered through Burnham’s perspective, just as the whole show was.

The season ends with Burnham boarding Discovery for her final mission. Notably, Discovery has been restored to her original configuration because the mission is another mysterious Red Directive. The mission involves taking Discovery into deep space and leaving her there for reasons that aren’t disclosed. Zora is still installed and is delighted to have company again when Burnham comes aboard. The reason for this elaborate and -at least for some- confusing ending is because of the Short Trek “Calypso” which depicted a traveller stumbling onto an abandoned Discovery and falling in love with Zora who made her debut in that story. The short’s place in canon became dubious after Discovery’s upgrade during the third season though it was a constant source of intrigue as Zora was introduced as an Artificial Intelligence inhabiting Discovery.

This ending is clearly designed to tie up that loose end but doing so creates more problems than it solves. The most glaring issue is that a sentient being is being knowingly abandoned in deep space for reasons she apparently doesn’t need to know. Burnham mentions Craft but even she doesn’t know what that means so Zora is being abandoned and has no say in the matter. Even more frustrating is that neither Burnham nor Zora object to this despite them apparently being family to one another. It’s right to spend time in the final episode saying goodbye to Discovery as the ship in Star Trek has always been a character in its own right, something made literal by giving the ship a personality in Zora but doing this in a way that needlessly preserves continuity robs that goodbye of some of its power.


It all works out

It’s likely that “Calypso” is a short that a sizeable chunk of the audience won’t be familiar with so this links to the Kovich reveal in that many will be confused by this. The reasons for doing this aren’t explained so even those familiar with the short will be confused as Zora is alone when it starts and left alone when it ends. Presumably, she will remain isolated until Discovery’s systems inevitably fail and she dies; a very morbid end for an engaging character. It’s generally cruel as it has been established that Zora gets lonely so it’s immoral to force her to spend an undisclosed amount of time in isolation. It wasn’t necessary to tie up this loose end as it could easily have been explained away as a possible future that was prevented along the way.

A better way have this goodbye to Discovery and Zora would be Burnham taking the ship to the Fleet Museum and establishing that Zora would be delighted in telling visitors stories about the crew and their missions. It means that she would never be alone and that Discovery would have an important place in history as a ship that mattered and is of interest to people. There is also a lack of information regarding how long Burnham commanded Discovery after the quest for the Progenitor technology or what the crew did after leaving the ship. Has Zora been sitting alone in Spacedock for decades with nobody to interact with?


Good times

Despite this, Burnham’s conversation with Zora about all the memories that flood back is poignant. Burnham talks to Zora about her returning one day to see what the descendants of her family have made of themselves. It’s very sentimental and thought-provoking as a statement of what was accomplished by the crew of Discovery enduring far beyond their years. Burnham clearly feels she and her crew have made a difference and is content with that.

Reconnecting with Zora prompts Burnham to think back on her time with her crew and family. This takes the form of an ethereal moment where everyone gathers on the bridge laughing together and hugging. It’s reminiscent of a similar moment in Titanic with the notable difference of Burnham being very much alive when it takes place. It’s a pleasant visual that highlights the unbreakable connection between these characters. Whether it’s earned is continually up for debate due to the well-documented lack of development for many of the characters. Detmer and Owo -two of the frustratingly underserved characters- are present for this despite being missing for most of the season with no explanation so it simultaneously acts as a celebration of the group dynamic and a reminder of how poorly served most of the supporting characters were. The emotion of it works and the intended message is conveyed before Discovery makes its final jump closing out the series.

For better or for worse, Discovery ended on its own terms. Despite the various reboots over the years, it always held to being an emotionally driven show primarily focused on one character. It began with Burnham and ended with her so the show is nicely bookended by her journey beginning and ending in the way it does. The finale was effective in places and confusing to the point of laughable in others which feels about right for Star Trek: Discovery.


One last sit down


An engaging finale that wraps up the season’s plot in a thought-provoking way while providing good closure on the show as a whole.

  • 7/10
    Discovery - 7/10


Kneel Before…

  • Burnham and Moll’s tenuous truce lasting exactly as long as it needed to
  • the thoughtful exploration of the technology’s potential
  • reiterating Burnham’s self-doubt as she questions her worthiness to use the technology
  • covering a variety of philosophical touchstones in the conversation between Burnham and the Progenitor
  • the Progenitor’s words about embracing difference and their people’s motivation to create a diverse galaxy
  • Burnham’s decision to let go of the technology and the well justified reasons for doing so
  • preserving the mystery by revealing that the Progenitors didn’t create the technology
  • Culber’s revelation about not needing all the answers and finding comfort in his newfound faith filling that gap
  • the showcase of Rayner’s command abilities
  • Rayner’s decision to send the Breen to the Galactic Barrier as a display of mercy and an indication of his growth
  • Saru’s negotiation with Primarch Tahal drawing on Rayner’s advice about dealing with the Breen
  • Doug Jones’ performance in his exchanges with Tahal
  • Burnham and Book rekindling their relationship
  • the flashforward showing that it endures and thrives to become something happy and comfortable
  • Burnham’s conversation with her son, Leto summarising some of the ongoing themes and detailing what she has learned
  • Burnham’s poignant conversation with Zora
  • the ethereal reunion for the crew on the bridge of Discovery
  • ending the show on its own terms and staying true to itself right until the end


Rise Against…

  • Sara and T’Rina’s wedding not actually focusing on them
  • a clumsy mention of Stamets’ legacy arc
  • an underwhelming resolution to Tilly’s uncertainty about her teaching ability
  • unnecessarily revealing that Kovich is an existing character in the franchise
  • the weak resolution of Book and Moll’s unnecessary familial connection
  • Discovery’s final mission confusingly preserving continuity
  • the optics of abandoning a sentient being in deep space to be alone until the ship’s systems inevitably fail


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User Review
7.17/10 (3 votes)

Star Trek: Discovery

DiscoveryStar Trek: Discovery is an important show for the franchise as it was Star Trek‘s return to television after 12 years off the air. Enterprise was cancelled in 2005 and the only new official Star Trek content after that point was the Kelvin Timeline movies so all eyes were on Discovery as Star Trek returning to its roots as an ongoing TV series. It was also the flagship show of the newly launched CBS All Access streaming service; a streamer that is now a thing of the past and now exists as Paramount+.

Discovery was immediately a divisive show as it was set prior to the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and his crew but was far more advanced in terms of visuals. Such a choice could be understood as filmmaking technology has moved on massively since the 1960s so it’s unlikely that the aesthetic of The Original Series would be taken seriously by modern audiences. If Star Trek was to appeal to new viewers then it would have to look as slick as its competitors. It definitely delivered in that regard but many couldn’t see beyond the visual update. Valid questions were asked about the need to do a prequel when setting the show in another time period where flashy visuals wouldn’t be questioned was possible. Indeed, the design aesthetic of The Original Series would eventually be updated when Enterprise was shown in season 2. The visual update wasn’t something that ever bothered me but there was certainly some pandering to that section of the fandom with some glaring backpedalling during season 2 and it’s likely that the decision to move Discovery‘s setting to the 32nd century was at least part informed by those criticisms.

This show is distinct in the franchise as the focus is different to what longtime fans were used to. Instead of an ensemble cast with individual episodes devoted to them, there was a central character in Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham. The show was filtered through her perspective and other characters were developed through secondary plots. Occasionally there would be an episode with a different central focus but such things are rare. The storytelling was also far more emotionally driven than older Star Trek shows. So much attention was given to how characters were feeling and how their emotions played into the wider narrative. Once again, a difficult adjustment for some but an interesting approach nonetheless.


The old look

Michael Burnham was an interesting character but faced criticism because she was the previously unmentioned adopted sister of Spock raised by his parents Sarek and Amanda after her parents were killed by Klingons. This was the first example of Discovery crowbarring references into its storytelling and far from the last; something it was doing as late as its final episode. The familial connection to Spock was used well and her relationship with Sarake and Amanda was compelling but it’s undeniably something that wasn’t required to make Burnham interesting in her own right. Many of her best stories have nothing to do with her family.

Discovery also leaned into serialised storytelling. This wasn’t new to Star Trek as Deep Space Nine flirted with serialisation though still maintained enough of an episodic identity so as not to alienate casual viewers. Enterprise told a continuous story in its third season and shifted to smaller arcs in its fourth. Discovery‘s approach to serialisation was to have an ongoing plot that bound the season together and created a reason for episodic adventures to take place. It worked for the most part but every season had the problem of waiting too long to answer the questions and leaving very little time to explore them. This was most glaring in seasons 4 and 5.

History will be kind to Discovery. Once time has passed it will likely be looked on as a positive entry to the franchise that pushed it in directions it had never gone. The quality was inconsistent and there were recurring errors it refused to learn from such as failing to develop supporting characters who were always there but rarely did anything but there was more to like about it than not. The characters were eclectic and engaging, the production values were first rate, it provided representation that had never been seen in the franchise before and it was always true to itself for better or worse. Discovery is part of my favourite franchise and it absolutely deserves its place.


The final jump

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